From California

Cyn shared letters of interest with her mother, and this one, from her colleague Edie who had moved to California in December 1950, and was missed and mourned by Cyn at work, was annotated and sent on by Cyn. It gives an interesting impression of Los Angeles 70 years ago, as well as a rather sad impression of loneliness that I hope Cyn responded to.

January 29


Dear Cyn,

It was wonderful getting your letter Friday. I am so glad you ran out of things to do Monday afternoon. I started to answer Friday night, but found there was so much I wanted to say that thought I’d better wait till this noon to type it or I’d have to pay parcel post rates.

Might’s well begin from the beginning. I still don’t remember exactly what happened from the time I bid farewell to So. Bend and I boarded the El Capitán- one mad dash after another and me struggling with two bags and a hot box. What a time!

The El Cap is a beautiful train- soft music, comfortable chairs, lunch bar, courier nurses with descriptions of the scenery, etc. The porters, conductors, & waiters were ever so friendly. Most of the passengers had time schedules & every time we passed through a town there was a mad swishing of papers to find out where we were.

I liked Colorado ever so much – Dot Hendee is so right about those wonderful mountains – huge mounds of sifted wheat flour sprinkled with pepper. Nex Mexico was not quite so interesting – too much flat, brown, dry, land. Saw a great many deserted rodeo fences. Friday night was exciting – the poor little engine puffing along about 30 miles an hour up and around the mountains. I could see the engine and eleven cars ahead make the turns before our car reached them. We forgot about the last time change and were up at 3:30 to beat the last minute rush for the john Saturday morning. Our first sight of California – orange & lemon trees, vineyards, and palm trees. I couldn’t get over the palm trees – long handled feather dusters stuck in the ground. We went past a tenement district and the “Tree Grows in Brooklyn” was an overloaded orange tree. The mountains are always in sight – on cloudy days they look like fairy castles or a mass of fluffy clouds. It is truly beautiful – the sunsets are just like the pictures you see of them.

There was a huge mob waiting at the station for the Easterners. Keith Brown, the sockman’s friend, met me, took me to coffee, gave me all sorts of advice about jobs, people, & California, and then deposited me at the Windermere Hotel in Santa Monica. It was a wonderful introduction to California. [Cyn’s note of explanation: The sockman is a man Edie is keen on- she knitted him socks for Christmas!]

The hotel is old but nice – had a lovely room with bath for not too much. I could see the ocean from my window. In front of the hotel ran Ocean Blvd, then a very narrow parkway, a steep hill, Ocean Front (another street), then the beach and the OCEAN. The people at the hotel were ever so nice to me and never suspected that it was my first stay at a hotel. I slept most of Saturday and the rest of the day was in a daze of disbelieve – I had really arrived in Calif.! Sunday I took a long walk still not believing that I was actually here. Had dinner at Bennett’s – recommended by Duncan Heinz in his book “Adventures in Eating”. It was located on Yacht Harbour – a pier extending out into the ocean. The place was packed with atmosphere – the host wore a seacaptain’s cap, the salad and chowder were served in sea shells, and the menu was carved on a wooden fish.

Monday started the job hunt. Tried getting into selling, but even with pull I still have had no experience in it and after Christmas is not so good. I finally settled on a steno job in the J. C. Penney Company West Coast Buying Office. The pay is not so good but they give us insurance, a Christmas bonus, discounts on things bought in Penney’s, a chance to buy clothes from here wholesale, and lots of experience (they say). My boss Mr. J. W. Parker Fox is the buyer for women’s coats, and suits, and children’s coats. He has been ever so nice to me- his bark is much worse than his bite. Don Hill- young, handsome, & married, is his assistant and has been nice, too. Then there are Nancy & Alicia. Nancy is older & Alicia just out of U.C.L.A. They are ever so nice too. I take dictation mostly, file, work on casters – flyers giving the “hotest” buys. I like it better than I did at first. It’s a mad rush all the time. We go out for coffee morning and afternoon (miss AA coffee times terribly).

I started work January 16 and that same day I moved from the hotel to a room with private entrance, some cooking privileges, use of the phone, & washing privileges. Mrs. Jones, a grandmotherly sort of person, has been very kind to me. But I am moving February 10 to an apartment with Alicia and her friend. It is a cute apartment – just like you expect to find out here. A huge bedroom, front room, bath, and kitchen and a patio. The furniture is all new and is very attractive. I hated to leave Santa Monica and the ocean, but I’m going to save .40 a day on bus fare so I guess it’s more than worth it. My new address will be 517 South Commonwealth, Los Angeles 5, Calif.

We have had grand weather – upper 60’s and 70’s. Had several days of rain, but not many. The fog was bad Friday morning but not nearly what I expected from rumors.

Cyn, the distances out here are unbelievable. There are five telephone directories in Los Angeles county and long distance rates between directories. Santa Monica is one of the many neighbourhoods that make up Los Angeles- Hollywood, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Burbank, San Bernardino, Long Beach are a few of the others. Los Angeles itself covers over 400 square miles and Los Angeles County covers over 4000 square miles. Santa Monica is 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. (I leave the house at 7:30 get to work by 9:00). Long Beach is 27 miles on the other side of downtown Los Angeles. It is truly amazing. They have Grey Hound service between some points of L.A. No one seems to know too much about where places are. I just start out with plenty of time – wait on the street corner until the bus comes along – ask the driver how I get there and he will say to take one of these- blue bus, red bus, yellow & green bus, one of the street cars, one of the trolley cars, the Pacific Electric, or the subway. More fun. You can’t be in a hurry.

Parts of Los Angeles are built on the mountains and it is very pretty at night with the lights on different levels. The sockman arrived in L.A. Jan 12th and has shown me Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Restaurant Row, Miracle Mile- shopping district, the Cock & Bull- had their specialty Moscow Mule- hard to tell what was in it.

The rest of the letter is handwritten.

(noon hour is over.) All sorts of flowers are out here- Easter lilies, geraniums, iris, glads, crocuses, & poinsettas – these haven’t been so good this year – they lost all their green leaves. Cyn, it is truly a wonderful place. I haven’t been disappointed at all in it. I think I’m going to stay.

Although I’ve made the hour drive to downtown Los Angeles twice a day for over two weeks, I still see things I haven’t seen before. There is a shop I’m anxious to visit – the London Shop. It looks so interesting. They have bright red carpeting (a fellow was vacuuming it the other day when we passed) which made it look like a royal uniform of some sort. I’ll let you know what it’s like.

Riding back & forth so far makes my evenings so short; and there is something about the weather here that you feel best if you get to bed early. These have delayed my writing but the real reason for my not writing before was that I missed you folks so much – you wouldn’t have been able to read my writing for the tear blotches. Cynthia, it has been terrible – I liked the place but I ached to see someone I knew. Did you ever feel that way when you first came to Toledo? Why, in sending stuff out from work – the mere typing of “Lubbock” or “Portland” made tears come to my eyes. Isn’t that awful! I’m getting used to work now, but mornings I dreaded going to work for it was so different from the Field Office.

Say, the Coffee Room really sounds spacious. How does the coffee taste? Do they serve doughnuts or are you all still on diets? For coffee here we down down on the elevator from 10th floor to Angeles- half cocktail bar & half restaurant. Oh, & most tragic, California does not know long johns or bismarks! Yes, really, they look at me as though I’m mad when I ask for a long john. I’ve been eating doughnuts. Once in a while we go to a juice bar- you dash in & stand drinking a glass of juice- orange, lemon, coconut, sauerkraut, carrot, etc. Round on the walls are signs – coconut juice is good for ulcers- businessman rush in every morning for their coconut juice. Funny! The people are friendly here but casual. I ran into an oddity Don Hill from our office is a Californian of two generations. Ran into a number of people from Detroit – was talking to all sorts of people.

So nothing exciting is happening round the Field Office – have to do something about that. Should I send another telegram?

Have you had any more conversations with Miss Muir over in Payroll? Or things rolling smoothly? Hope so. 

I was so glad to hear about Milly’s baby coming. Can just see you folks working away on little things & talking about them. My sister’s baby arrived early – surprised us New Year’s day. Kathleen Marie Cooney – Irish! Hear she is quite a darling. [Cyn’s note: Scandal!! Sister only married last July!]. How is Jerry taking it- still so careful? Have they decided on names as yet? That semester certainly went fast! Doesn’t seem possible Les will be back. How did the Sampling get through after Christmas any rushes then? Who all was at Pete’s for bridge? Wish I could have been there. We surely used to have fun – you would have liked it, Cynthia. Tell Millie & Dawn “hello”. Good to hear from them, too. Tell Dawn Pall Malls are 17¢ here. Yes, in spite of the fact that Calif has a 3 1/2% sales tax, too. Don’t understand it. Was sorry to hear about Dawn’s unrestful vacation. Glad she can take it easier at work now. Is her father better now & her brother, too? Glad to hear about Leen’s changing. Marie certainly sounds nice. She is tall! I like the green sweater Millie is knitting – that little rayon thread is so pretty in it. Oh, it was so good to hear from you all & about everything. Tell Bob Bruisma “hello”. He was so nice that last day- driving me all around – don’t know what I should have done without him. I used to pester him so for supplies. Wish I could see his tables in the coffee room – bet they’re ever so nice.

Cynthia, what have you been reading- anything exciting? I saw “Tom Brown’s School Days” on TV last night & liked it very much. My, the pranks they used to pull at Rugby! Do they still do it? Have you seen the January issue of “Flair”? It had some interesting things about England & all the coming summer activities. Did you know that Mr. Sadler of Sadler Wells discovered a well in 1693. It was located in the garden outside his music studio. Thought that was interesting.

Tell Milly & Dawn to tell Jerry & Burt “hello”. I could go on and on here but think it’s best I stop until next time. If you ever run out of things to do again, Cyn, I’ll be ever so glad to hear from you- every day. Tell Cec “hello”. It was so good of him to come with the Field Office to see me off. I love to watch you two together- teasing each other all the time. It was such fun that Guy Fowlks (sp.)? evening. Don’t you suppose maybe you folks could go to Canada via California? I’d love to see you. It’s a wonderful place & I’m sure you’d enjoy it. How’s the driving coming? Is MacTavish (that doesn’t sound just right) behaving well? Yes, I finished my socks in time & they were appreciated. How was the sweater? Get it into shape? Thank you for missing me, Cynthia. I surely have missed you. Tell Shirley I’m writing to her. “Hello” to everyone. Don’t work too hard & let me hear from you. 



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